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 Atlas Turnout Problem
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Author Previous Topic: Can anyone help? Topic Next Topic: Trix Mikado  

GNMT76
Engine Wiper

Posted - 02/17/2018 :  6:13:10 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have seven Atlas code 83 Snap Switch turnouts (item no. 542, basically a #4) on my layout, all powered by Tortoises. They've been but moderately used for only about four years now. Over the past few months, three of the turnouts have begun misbehaving by derailing all my locos (four-axle diesels and a 2-8-2 steam) on nearly every occasion - but only when entering the diverging route. When switched to the mainline route - or when the locos are exiting the diverging route - they operate perfectly and cause no derailments. A fourth turnout, strangely enough, derails the locos about 10% of the time when they are exiting from an adjoining mainline track. But perhaps that's another story.

I've checked everywhere there is to check on the turnouts, the adjoining trackage (also Atlas code 83 snap track and flextrack) and the locos' wheels and trucks with the NMRA gauge. All appear to be properly and proportionally adjusted. I also see no kinks or other track or loco anomalies.

A close eyeball inspection of the problematic turnouts, however, shows that both trucks of the locos jump in the same two places on the outside point rail (again, only when entering the diverging track): first, one tie beyond the throwbar and again exactly half way across the point rail. That one outside point rail is also not precisely aligned at the pivot point with its other half (as is the inside point rail); it leans inwards just a tad and wiggles slightly at the touch of a finger. It also has a slight, but visible, bend along its entire length. The inside point rail is perfectly straight and firmly in place. Additionally, the ends of both point rails (which are beveled, sharp and not at all blunted) long ago worked themselves loose from the throwbar. I used to push them gently back in until they "clicked" in place in the throwbar, but they'd always pop out again. More recently, I used CA to secure them in place, a remedy that seems to have worked. Mostly. The point rails also hold tightly and firmly against their respective stock rails when the Tortoise is activated.

All this tells me there's simply a quality issue with the design and manufacture of Atlas turnouts. I even replaced one problematic turnout with a brand new, identical one last week, only to find that the locos continue to jump at the same two places on the same point rail and immediately derail. Rarely will the locos continue ahead, but always with an audible "complaint" before re-righting themselves on the track. The new turnout also has the same point rail misalignment and wiggling issues as the older one (you'd think developing such a problem would take time!). Oddly, both turnouts also have a noticeable vertical bend in the middle, which according to a review on the M.B. Klein site I recently read, is a chronic problem with Atlas turnouts. They do not lay flat when placed on a perfectly flat surface.

Given all this, is there a way I can fix and eliminate this problem for good? Am I missing something? Or, as I'm starting to think, should I dump Atlas and go with a better quality make? I'm thinking Peco, Walthers or Micro Engineering. Are there any compatibility issues with those three makes and Atlas tracks? Building new turnouts by hand is not something I wish to get into, however. So it's either fix or replace.

I look forward to reading your potential fixes and recommendations on quality of design, build and operation of other brands.

Country: USA | Posts: 107

MarkF
Engineer

Premium Member


Posted - 02/17/2018 :  7:39:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
David, it sounds like you have methodically gone through the process of tracking down where the problem is, and some of the observations you have detailed above already address what I would have suggested. I can only offer these thoughts;

First and foremost, also check the gauge of the wheels of your locos. They can and some will, over time, slip out of gauge.

Assuming that is NOT the problem, turning back to the turnouts themselves, I can tell you that about 90% of my turnouts are Walthers (old Shinohara) turnouts, but I do have a few Atlas codes 83 turnouts on the layout, as do many of the members of our local operating group and none of us have experienced the problems you describe, at least to the extent to which you appear to be having them. Yes, traditionally the Atlas 'standards' are not as strict as some other manufacturers, such as the loose point rails and the vertical bend you mention.

The one thing you didn't mention that I saw was checking the track gauge. Carefully and closely check the gauge of the rails through the diverging route. Also check the guard rail as well. Are the locomotives maybe hitting the guardrail, causing the derailment? All of this relates back to the point rail. Ensure that the gauge is snug. Not too loose, but not too tight either. You may have to even bend the point rail slightly to better follow the curve of the diverging route.

I hope this helps.


Mark

Country: USA | Posts: 13724 Go to Top of Page

k9wrangler
Engineer



Posted - 02/17/2018 :  8:03:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Are these derailments every time, all the time or inconsistent?

Ive always thought the Snap Track #4 switches had different geometry to SNAP with sectional track different than other lines of Atlas track, Custom Line? I have a couple but use them in very low traffic, low speed areas.

Regarding the points losing grip with the throw bar, ive Replaced the plastic throw bar with PC tie material and solidly soldered them as id done with Fast Tracks jig built switches. To aid electrical continuity within the moving rails I solder a tiny wire across the moving joint.


Karl Scribner
HMFWBIC
Kentucky Southern Railway
and associated lines
Midwest Lower Michigan

Country: USA | Posts: 9479 Go to Top of Page

BurleyJim
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 02/17/2018 :  10:13:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Are you getting the full motion out of your Tortoise's? Is it possible that over time the fulcrum plate (or whatever they call it) has shifted and the switches aren't opening and closing all the way? Let us know what you find out.

Jim



Country: USA | Posts: 3317 Go to Top of Page

jbvb
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 02/17/2018 :  10:56:07 PM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
When I set out to fix unexpected derailments, I'll go to a lot of effort to get a close up, track-level view of the problem area as the problem equipment goes through. If you can't do that in this case, you could see if a phone camera could get a video showing what 'goes bump in the night' and exactly how.


Country: USA | Posts: 5593 Go to Top of Page

engineerkyle
Fireman



Posted - 02/18/2018 :  7:28:30 PM  Show Profile  Visit engineerkyle's Homepage  Reply with Quote

GNM,

What are the turnouts mounted on? Is your sub-structure plywood? Foam? open framework? Are your tracks on raised roadbed?

The reason I ask is that turnouts need to be on a very flat and level surface. Maybe something has warped or shifted over time.

Kyle



Country: USA | Posts: 1042 Go to Top of Page

railmus
Fireman



Posted - 02/18/2018 :  8:22:07 PM  Show Profile  Visit railmus's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I made up a car from a piece of clear plastic. You can look through it to see any problems. Make sure its wheels are in gauge.
Check to see that the guide rails guide the wheels gently to the correct path.



Country: Canada | Posts: 1955 Go to Top of Page

BurleyJim
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 02/18/2018 :  8:43:10 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by railmus

I made up a car from a piece of clear plastic. You can look through it to see any problems. Make sure its wheels are in gauge.
Check to see that the guide rails guide the wheels gently to the correct path.




Sounds like a slick car....now if you had jvdb's phone or maybe a Go-Pro with a macro lense on it, that would really be slick.

Jim



Country: USA | Posts: 3317 Go to Top of Page

BurleyJim
Fireman

Premium Member


Posted - 02/18/2018 :  8:44:37 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by railmus

I made up a car from a piece of clear plastic. You can look through it to see any problems. Make sure its wheels are in gauge.
Check to see that the guide rails guide the wheels gently to the correct path.




Sounds like a slick car....now if you had jvdb's phone or maybe a Go-Pro with a macro lense on it, that would really be slick.

Jim



Country: USA | Posts: 3317 Go to Top of Page
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